By Jeremy Stafford - firstname.lastname@example.org
WOODSTOCK -- Diagnosing Central's offensive woes, for head coach Stephanie Mathews, is simple.
"We're just not playing the way that we practice," she said. "We're not playing with heart and passion and intensity, and we just get away from the fundamentals."
Play with fundamentals, and possessions are kept. More possessions lead to more points, more points generate more wins. Or so the theory goes.
But Central's 58-35 loss to district rival Page County on Tuesday night is proof enough that playing with a lack of fundamentals, and being limited to very few scoring chances, breeds losses.
Central (5-7, 1-2) committed 26 turnovers and 20 fouls, and the second quarter was the only one in which the Falcons managed more than two field goals.
But ask Central forward Brea Hinegardner how to get the Falcons, who started the season 4-2, back to playing mistake-free ball, and she's rendered almost speechless. She shrugs her shoulders, shakes her head, and mutters a soft, "I don't know."
"We play so well in practice against each other," she later said. "We'll beat up on each other in practice and not worry about it, but in a game it's like we're scared to play defense on the other team, when that's the team we should be beating up on.
"We definitely play better in practice and we just need to bring our practice mentality to the game."
The Falcons also need to find a way to keep their best players on the court. Forward Jensen Hoover, who's shooting better than 60 percent from the floor and is a stalwart presence on the defensive side of the ball, picked up two fouls only minutes after tip-off. She sat for a good bit of the first half, and watched as Hinegardner picked up three first-half fouls of her own.
Without Hoover and Hinegardner, the Falcons lacked the strength to keep Page County forward Taylor Jenkins off the blocks.
Jenkins scored five field goals, but scored most of her game-high 26 points from the free-throw line. She missed only once in 17 attempts from the free-throw line, providing yet another example of how an abundance of fouls, and absence of fundamentals, unraveled the Falcons.
"I think that we get down on ourselves too much," Central guard Ashley Jernigan said. "Once they get ahead of us we're like, 'Oh, we can't get a run,' but we can, and we need to learn that.
"We're such a good team and it's so frustrating when we are getting the fundamentals wrong."
The second quarter, the only one in which Central scored more points (16) than it committed turnovers (three), provided Mathews with at least some glimmer of the Falcons' potential. It was the only quarter in which Central committed fewer than five turnovers, and scored more than seven points. And had Central not sent Jenkins to the free-throw line six times, it might have been the only quarter in which Page County didn't score in double-digits.
"Again, we get away from the fundamentals," Mathews said. "We don't box out and [Jenkins] gets rebounds and we foul her and ... it just kind of snowballs."
After that successful second quarter, Central trailed Page County by only seven points, but gave up nine straight points to the Panthers to open the third quarter. Central turned the ball over six times coming out of halftime, and didn't score a point until Theresa Barela hit a free throw with 3:58 left in the period. From there, as Mathews explained, Central's woes snowballed.
Kasey McDonald led the Falcons, who lacked a double-digit scorer, with nine points, while Hinegardner scored eight.